March 21, 2007

12 Ways to Back Up Your Mac Online

In my book Take Control of Mac OS X Backups I mention the existence of several software-plus-online-storage combos that enable Mac users to back up their files to a nice secure server somewhere out there on the net. But I don’t express much enthusiasm about them, because they’re generally quite slow and unreasonably expensive compared to my favorite backup medium, external hard drives.

However, even since the book’s last update in January, the landscape has been changing. New online services are crawling out of the woodwork, old ones are revamping their pricing, and services that formerly supported only Windows are coming up with Mac software. There’s still a speed problem, even with a fast connection, but at least the options are increasing and prices are decreasing.

As of today, here are the options I know about that include both online storage space and backup software that runs on Mac OS X. (I’ve excluded online storage services that can be used for backup only with your own backup software, simply because that would have made the list absurdly long.)

  • .Mac*: Apple’s own service comes with a backup program called, inventively enough, Backup. But it’s pricey, at $100 per year for 1 GB of storage space (which you can bump up to as much as 4 GB for an extra $100). If you decide to use .Mac, you will of course want to read my book Take Control of .Mac!
  • BackJack*: The oldest online Mac backup service I know of, BackJack has respectable client software and prices that are improved from what they once were, but is still very expensive compared to some of the other options now available. (Example: 50 GB = $257.50 per month, or $120.50 without redundant backups.) The BackJack service is also available via Mac Backups using the same software and at the same price; I’m not sure what the point of that additional brand is.
  • Bandwagon: This service is currently for iTunes backups only, though it may expand to cover other data types in the future. As a beta tester, I’ve been underwhelmed, but perhaps they’ll get it together before their next relaunch. Bandwagon uses Amazon.com’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), which charges $0.15 per gigabyte per month plus $0.20 per gigabyte transferred (upload or download). So the maximum cost per month for backing up 50 GB of data would be $17.50. However, you must also pay for the use of the Bandwagon software, which costs $1 to $3 per month, depending on when you order it and which version you get. In the future, they plan to support other online storage services too.
  • Clunk Click*: This backup service, located in the United Kingdom, doesn’t make it easy to find their pricing, which starts at £5 (about $9.50) per month for 550 MB of storage up through £40 per month (about $76) for 20 GB, with several other levels available.
  • CrashPlan: I covered this newcomer in “Crash Plan: Backups Revisited” (TidBITS 868/26-Feb-07). You get a sophisticated and highly efficient client program, plus inexpensive online storage and the option to use a friend’s computer instead (or in addition). Pricing: 50 GB for $5 per month (with additional storage at $0.10 per gigabyte), plus the price of the software ($20–$60).
  • Datatrieve*: Located in the United Kingdom, Datatrieve uses a Java-based client. They charge £5 (about $9.50) per month for 1 GB of storage, and £125 (about $245) per month for 50 GB. Intermediate levels and higher storage quotas are available.
  • JungleDisk*: This application (free while in beta testing; $20 eventually) works in conjunction with Amazon.com’s S3, as does Bandwagon. Unlike earlier versions of JungleDisk, which merely gave you access to your S3 space as though it were a conventional network volume, the latest version has some basic backup capabilities built in. No multi-version archives or partial-file incremental backups yet, but supposedly those features on on their way.
  • MacBak: This service offers full-blown, multi-version archives, and its aimed primarily at graphics professionals and other creative types. Make that creative types with money: rates start at $89 per month, not counting the $89 setup fee, for 10 GB of new data added each month and a total of 120 GB per year—an odd way of metering. Higher-level (and more expensive) plans use an appliance that sits in your office and provides temporary storage for backups while on their way to the company’s servers, thus adding a layer of security and minimizing the impact of bandwidth bottlenecks.
  • MillerNET Protect Online Backup: This service uses a “rebrandable” cross-platform commercial backup tool called Ahsay that’s frankly pretty ugly (especially on a Mac), but functional. It includes partial-file incremental archives (like CrashPlan) and a large number of configuration options. MillerNET offers free 500 MB accounts, and has several pricing tiers ranging from $10 per month to $100 per month (the 50 GB plan costs $70 per month).
  • mozy: This online storage service previously offered backup clients only for Windows, but now has (an early beta version of) a Mac client as well. And the price is certainly right: you get 2 GB free, or unlimited storage space for only $5 per month. Early adopters, beware: the current beta is pretty buggy. But if they get the kinks worked out, the pricing is going to make this a very interesting solution.
  • Offsite Backup Solutions: Like MillerNET, OSB uses the Ahsay software. But their pricing is less attractive—for example, the monthly cost for 50 GB is $100. They offer a free 30-day demo, but you must provide credit card information up front and manually cancel your account before the 30 days are up to avoid being charged, a practice I consider kind of slimy.
  • Prolifix*: Prolifix uses cross-platform, Java-based software. The company charges $9.95 per month for 500 MB of storage and $28.95 per month for 8 GB, with intermediate levels available. (Prices for higher storage quotas available on request.)
  • S3 Backup: In the same vein as JungleDisk, S3 Backup uses Amazon.com’s S3 for storage space. Although their Mac software is still in beta testing and still pretty rough, it shows promise. It remains to be seen whether it will support incremental archives and how it will deal with files larger than S3’s 5 GB limit.

Covered in *Take Control of Mac OS X Backups version 2.0.

So what do I recommend? Well, considering price alone, mozy is the clear winner, with CrashPlan a close contender (equivalent in pricing if you’re storing 50 GB or less, and pretty reasonable thereafter). The solutions that use S3 (Bandwagon, JungleDisk, and S3 Backup) benefit from Amazon.com’s pricing—a bit higher, but still respectable. In terms of functionality, none of the inexpensive services can yet match the feature set of conventional backup software, or of the more established online backup services such as BackJack. But they’re getting close. If I had to choose just one of these today, I’d pick CrashPlan, which seems to offer the best compromise. But ask me again tomorrow and I may have a totally different answer—things are changing rapidly.

21 Responses to “12 Ways to Back Up Your Mac Online”

  1. lrainy said:

    You can try Steekup at http://www.steekup.com 1GB free to backup your Mac datas …

  2. Jeff said:

    Take a look at Data Protection Services,

    http://www.dataprotection.com We now have the ability to do secure online backups of Macs. Let us know if you have any questions.

    Thx, Jeff

  3. Marc said:

    How about Mozy at http://mozy.com/?

  4. Marc said:

    Duh, I missed it…

  5. Mike said:

    Have you taken a look at Backupright ( http://www.backupright.com ), I’m using their client on my MacBook Pro and its awesome.

  6. thinks » Blog Archive » Want to ensure your website stays alive? Follow these 7 critical steps. said:

    […] much to backup your hard drive with a site like Carbonite (PC-only today, though Mac is coming) or any number of Mac services. I had the nightmare scenario. My laptop – where I do all my writing – died the same week as my web […]

  7. Anna said:

    How about an evaluation of how well they work? After reading all the reviews, I just tried Mozy Unlimited and had it drop the connection repeatedly. It took me 4 tries to back up 5GB of data – and the next 11GB of iTunes looked like it would take me a year.

  8. Prolifix LLC said:

    We support pretty much all platforms. Not only that our prices have changed since this article has been written. We encourage any and all to try it for them selves for free.

    Anne- give our free trial a try and let us know what you think. Any and all feed back is positive.

    Cheers senselist!

    Team Prolifix

  9. Gene Debs III said:

    After Mike’s glowing review, I visited Backupright’s site. Seemed like a decent alternative, so I applied online and was stupid enough to give my credit-card info. After clicking submit, nothing happened.

    I emailed the company to find out what was up… there was no response to my four messages. Then I phoned the company and was asked “Are you a company?”

    Nope, said I, just a non-corporate individual… click — they hung up on me. Giving them the naive benefit of the doubt, I asked if Backupright offered non-business accounts (their website does offer “Express at Home” accounts). The receptionist said she didn’t know and put me on terminal hold.

    I phoned yet again, expressing concern about having bestowed upon them my credit-card number. The receptionist then shouted into the phone: “Well, I guess I’d call my bank.”

    I did. Bank officer said the company’s website may be some kind of online “phishing” scam. The bank will monitor my card’s usage and is filing a report with the state A.G.’s office.

    Damn… I feel stupid. And burned. Apparently it’s best to assume from the start that these online backup outfits are pirates one n’ all.

    No more shopping for this idiot.

    Caveat emptor

    Mike said: April 20th, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Have you taken a look at Backupright… I’m using their client on my MacBook Pro and its awesome.

  10. Jamie Kahn Genet said:

    Mozy has corrupted all the text clippings I’ve backed up and restored. JPEGs, PDFs and various other files seem ok (though I have not had time to test everything), but I’m extremely concerned simple text clipping files are being stripped of their data. When I open them after restoring they’re blank! 🙁

  11. Joe Kissell said:

    Gene: I’m very sorry to hear about your bad experience with Backupright. Thanks for letting us know.

    Jamie: I’ve forwarded your comment to a contact of mine at Mozy; hopefully a fix is in the works.

  12. Devin Knighton said:

    Jamie, you posted the same issue on another blog – derkeiler.com. We responded there as well.

    When Mozy was in beta last year, it did not support resource forks, which caused the problem you experienced. But MozyHome for Mac has supported backing up and restoring resource forks since our 0.9 release last December. If you are having problems, please upgrade to the recently released 1.0 version or contact macsupport@mozy.com. We want to resolve any problems you are experiencing with resource forks.

    Devin Knighton Mozy

  13. Sasha said:

    I have been using Mozy for the past couple of months. It’s an excellent resource. I highly recommend it to all Mac users!

  14. R.Ford said:

    I read from Ahsay.com that they are going to release a version 5.5 that the look and feel is greatly improved. It seems that their backup server application and their client-side application can run on Mac with no problem, as the software is developed on Java. Worth to take a look.

  15. Holly Enuj said:

    How can a discussion of Mac online backup occur without mentioning BackJack?, http://www.backjack.com – long-standing service and, from what i understand, version 5 is just around the corner – Holly

  16. Morgen Jahnke said:

    Holly,

    BackJack is mentioned in the list above (second entry).

  17. Jamie Kahn Genet said:

    Well, Mozy for Mac is still partly broken with simple little text clippings in 2009. It now restores them so you can view them by doubleclicking – i.e. their contents are no longer stripped. But weirdly their preview in column view is gone 🙁 So Mozy for Mac still can’t backup/restore simple little text clippings without doing something weird to them. As a result I simply cannot trust it with the rest of my data. Maybe it would be okay if I archived it first and backed that up, but there are easier ways.

    Mozy also crashes occasionally at the config screen and has on two occasions started backing up files not selected for backup. Files not even anywhere near other files and folders being backed up.

    As for Devin Knighton’s comment above – I was using the latest version at the time and Mozy support were unable to get Mozy working for me. It just kept on corrupting certain file types (not just text clippings which is merely a very simple and readily testable example) month after month.

    In the end I had to demand my money back and switch to CrashPlan which works brilliantly.

    I continue to test Mozy now and again (the free version is handy to backup certain game saves), but as I say at the beginning – it’s still rather buggy.

  18. John Smith said:

    For me, Backjack was the only offering that creates secure offline backups that is, encrypts traffic to server and stores data encrypted on the server. For me, I don’t want anyone looking through my offline backups, particularly if they are sensitive. I have looked at idrive, dropbox etc but none of them offer the archival and security features of backjack. idrive doesn’t encrypt on the destination server, dropbox is really a sharing mechanism, not a backup solution (and is very good at that if that’s what you want).

  19. Jamie Kahn Genet said:

    I don’t think I know of any online backup service that DOESN’T encrypt the data for sending and storage. Almost all do it for a hell of a lot less than Blackjack… hmmm… I smell a rat.

  20. Warren said:

    Mozy was horribly buggy. Crashed frequently. Support was not responsive or helpful. gave up after a week.

    Went to iDrive. Even worse experience. Was eventually told on the phone by “Jason”, “What do you expect for $5?”. I simply expected a piece of software that could back up 40GB. In 3 WEEKS it could only do 20GB, and at that it was buggy and frequently lost connection with its server. 2 uninstalls/reinstalls (per their instructions) later and it is no better. Information on the program window is inaccurate and frequently loses track of what is going on. this is JUST PLAIN JUNK.

    OS 10.4.11 on G5 Mac

  21. Julian said:

    well that is why i only have one online backup i love and that is safecopy backup.I prefer safecopy to anyother backup.They offer a free unlimited 5GB trial version and one can share one account for more than 2computers.